Gone Baby Gone Review - Affleck's Directing Debut is Phenomenal
by Alex Billington
October 9, 2007
An extraordinary movie is one that makes you think and one that makes you question your beliefs at the end. I'll tell you already that Gone Baby Gone is one of the few movies this year that leaves you questioning what happened in the end and whether it was right. Ben Affleck takes us on an intense journey in his directorial debut and damn, does he do a great job. I don't know why, but movies set in Boston involving corrupt police have been great recently. Last year it was the Oscar winning The Departed, this year it's the Oscar hopeful Gone Baby Gone.
Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, the film follows Missing Persons Private Investigator Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his girlfriend/partner Angela Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan). When a 4-year-old girl is kidnapped right out of her bed, a close family member comes to Patrick and Angie and attempts to hire them. At first they don't want to take the job because the entire city of Boston and the police department is out looking for the girl and the weight of the case would be too heavy if they end up finding her dead. After meeting the mother of the kidnapped girl, Patrick decides to continue his investigation and soon finds himself almost too involved.
Patrick's strength is in his ties with the community because he's not a cop. He's on good terms with the local criminals and it's easier for him to meet with them than it is for him to mingle with cops. The police don't like Patrick interfering with this sensitive search, and when Chief Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) sends two detectives (Ed Harris and Robert Wahlberg) to work with Patrick, things begin to really intensify. Not only does Patrick think that he's figured out who kidnapped the girl, but he starts to dig too deep and to discover the real truth behind everyone involved, cop or criminal.
Just when you think it's over, you're jolted right back in, thrown in headfirst for another 45 minutes of edge-of-your-seat intensity. These aren't the kind of thrills that scare you, they're the kind that make your heart beat fast and your mind numb from fascination. In the end, however, there is no satisfaction, only questions. I wonder to myself if Patrick made the right decision and whether it's worth making a sacrifice like that for something you believe so strongly in. Compared to the endings of Michael Clayton or In the Valley of Elah, I found the imperfect ending of Gone Baby Gone to be a testament to the braveness of director Ben Affleck.
In a moment late in the film, Michelle Monaghan's character questions, "This is the kind of thing that if you do, Patrick, you want to be sure. Are you sure?" If that question were posed to Ben Affleck on whether he should jump ship from acting to directing, the answer is a resounding "yes!" Affleck's acting career has been heading downwards ever since Daredevil, with the only exception being his portrayal of George Reeves in Hollywoodland. I've wondered whether directing and writing would be his calling, and I can now say with confidence that they are. By contrast, Sean Penn just released his latest directorial feature, Into the Wild, and while much of the film is great, the flaws lie primarily in Penn's hands. Here in Gone Baby Gone it's perfect, as if Affleck had been an accomplished director for years.
Finally, there are some performances deemed "Oscar-worthy" that even I agree with. Each character added a unique touch to the entire film as if each were a piece of a puzzle. From Michelle Monaghan's tenderness to Amy Ryan's grit as both a druggy and a grieving mother, to Ed Harris's strikingly powerful dialogue, and especially to Casey Affleck's commanding yet sincere lead, each was a worthy addition. Morgan Freeman is the only one who seemed a bit more rigid than the otherwise phenomenal cast, but it's Ed Harris who stands out. He is guaranteed a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, and I'll be rooting for a win.
With that, I don't want to lead you on lest I be accused of spoiling the film. It's a better reveal to find out that a certain character you thought trustworthy turns out to be just the opposite. In Gone Baby Gone, though, I question Patrick's choice and whether he made the right decision. It's guaranteed that when you walk out of the theater at the end you'll be tearing yourself apart wondering if what he did was right. It's that kind of thought-provoking filmmaking that I admire the most.
Reader Feedback - 17 Comments
Glad to hear it. I was hoping Affleck would be able to salvage his career; he hasn't always made such poor decisions.
Great White Snark on Oct 9, 2007
Hi, I am a very avid fan of Ben Affleck. The truth to the matter is I have the daily Google alerts about Ben Affleck and his family. My question is, will this film "Gone Baby Gone" be shown here in Manila, Philippines? If yes, WHEN? I tell you, I am very very eager to see this film now. I hope to hear from you soonest. Thanks!
Marife Briones on Oct 9, 2007
Some of the scenes were shot at night in Quincy Quarries, which used to be hundreds of feet deep and full of water, but were drained and filled with Big Dig dirt from the late 1990s-2001 or so. now its more like a park, with a few shallow vernal ponds, than a ratty old quarry deep and full of mystery/danger. it's a popular urban rock climbign spot as well, and some freinds and I were denied access one evening when we showed up to climb, because of the production. glad that the movie seems to be quality, since we were bad mouthing Ben all that night for having us make the trip to Rattlesnake Rocks (about 2 miles away) which isn't nearly as convenient a climbing site 😉 I'll go see GBG just for the Quarry scenes, and so I can say "Hey! I've climbed that! that's water is all CGI!" 😉
Robbovius on Oct 10, 2007
I really really wantto see this film, and soon. But sadly, here in the UK, it has been delayed due to the 'coinciding themes of the Madiline McCann dissapearence'. Such a shame.
Mark Leeming on Oct 10, 2007
The book was filled with amazingly dark characters. It's good to hear that Ben made the most of it. With the Afflecks, Matt Damon and the 37 or so Wahlberg brothers, Boston is turning into Hollywood East.
Sir Rodney Stiffington on Oct 11, 2007
Bobby Wahlberg IS NOT Ed Harris partner in gone baby gone...John Ashton, who played Taggert in Beverly Hills Cop 1&2, plays Ed Harris' partner...just letting you know you made a little mistake...other than that I love the review
G-Man on Oct 18, 2007
Hey Mark Leeming, I'm from the UK and hadn't heard of this movie. Ended up having a few hours spare in my recent trip is the US. Pick this movie ramdomly and glad very glad. Keep your fingers crossed that this will be out soon as I would like to see the movie again.
Mandy on Oct 30, 2007
all of us who saw this intriguing film did not know what Patrick meant when he said, "He (Remy) lied to me!" Please explain..........
phyllis on Nov 4, 2007
Big spoilers below . . . Remy tells Patrick this story about how he once planted evidence on a guy several years ago, right? Remy says he got a tip about the guy from his regular snitch, Ray Lysansky. This is the same Ray who stole the drug money with Helene. However, back when Patrick and Remy first met at the diner and Patrick mentioned Ray, Remy said he had never heard of him. When Patrick hears Remy's story, he realizes Remy had lied about knowing Ray.
Nancy on Nov 8, 2007
most disgusting movie I've seen in a long time. There is no reason to create a movie that nobody can watch because of the discgusting lanquage. This was a terrible and revolting movie/. Get your opinion out some other way besides this. If the movie industry can't create a m0vie without saying things in an every othert word being f. f. f. among other things than their not very inteligent and if their only trying to get what the public wants then I guess their all doomed to hell.
pam k on Feb 17, 2008
^^^^^ Then perhaps it's time you realized the world isn't made of cotton candy clouds and milkshake waterfalls. I personally don't like language like that, but I think it is one of the main things that made this movie seem "real" to me. Maybe take a little time to walk out of your comfortable sheltered bubble and see what the real world is all about. All this coming from a Christian... BTW: GREAT movie... two thumbs up.
Aaron on Feb 25, 2008
sorry, let me explain, Good movie but what a frustrating character! I know people like that; anal to the death. Wanting to be right over everyone else's detriment. That girl was better off in her new home. Anyone can see that. Moral? It's a gray line that I would have left untouched. If his motive was purely driven by his duty to the mother, he could have returned the girl without reveling the black man to the police. I believe, his ego was too big and his motive was driven by a desire to be right and to "do the right thing" to promote his own being to a status of rightfulness.
j lopez on Feb 27, 2008
"rightfulness" What made this such an incredible movie is the moral dilema. Patrick was weighing his soul. He confronted, brutally, his character, when he killed the pedophile. And with the many references to his Catholic upbringing, he chose the only path open to him. Bravo for not making it "easy" to stomach.
sasha on Mar 14, 2008
she was better off in the new place and ANYBODY can see that? If that's so clear than why is this movie called "morally ambiguous?" I was shocked by Angie's behavior at the end, just walking out seemed a little odd with the couple's connection in earlier scenes. (gave no reason to question the tightness of the relationship and then boom! Angie decides she has all the answers and knows what's in the best interest of the child???!) I dont think a child would be better off in another household... Jesus. Maybe if the kidnapping had never happened she would be a lot better off. And I certainly dont think she would be better off with somebody who would kidnap a child purposefully. It's really twisted and sick and at the end, how can you be anythng but outraged at the parents who wanted to "give this child a better home" so much they stole one? Why not create better programs out there or work in social services or adopt a child. It's not a good question for us to ask either. And anybody who is kidnapped- "STOCKHOLM SYNDROME?" Is going to identify or even love their new parents. Anyway, I'm here because the ending did leave me a bit confused.. What's going through Patrick's head in that last scene? How come the mother didnt care about banishing her aunt from her life when the aunt had morgaged her home to get the child back?!! Why did Patrick ask "and do YOU hate me?" (I wondered in that moment for a split second if there was gonna be ANOTHER plot twist with the mother being guilty of something more..) Confused a little bit about all the twists in the story. What exactly happened in the scene where all those shots go off on the edge of the water? I suppose i may have to read the book.
Ivy on Apr 8, 2008
(Spoilers, of course) There isn't a "right" way to take the end of the movie. The conclusion of it fully served the purpose of the film: to make you think. While it may be an "obvious answer" for some people, upon deeper inspection it becomes more uncertain and morally ambigious. Angie warned Patrick that if he chose to send the child back, she would hate him, and she held true to her word. It's not "sudden", it's a logical progression of her mental state. Not only does Patrick have to live with his decision, as Doyle warns, but Angie has to live with his choice too. One of the Deleted Scenes reveals that the two have been trying to have a child but cannot, so Angie's connected to the little girl becomes more maternal and thus seeing her set back to where she perceives as unsafe is too much for her. In a sense, she has lost the child she was given to protect, with only Patrick (in her eyes) to blame. "If his motive was purely driven by his duty to the mother, he could have returned the girl without reveling the [Doyle] to the police." ^I agree. Patrick was clearly motivated not by what was best for the child, but what was best for his conscious and sense of righteousness. Of course, the best decision would have been not to kidnap the girl at all but to instead involve Child Services or something, but that wasn't Patrick's choice to make. I think Patrick made the wrong decision and realizes it, but overall, it's all still a very blurred line between right and wrong. This movie is brillant =)
Fascinated on May 26, 2008
This movie was a brilliant debut for Ben Affleck. It's an intelligent and a wonderfully crafted film. Can't wait to watch Ben's next project.
DJ on Sep 5, 2009
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